Category Archives: Soul

Exercising Your Faith

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” So said Thomas Edison, and he would know. Until 2003 he held the most patents of any individual in the world.

“With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.” Working his entire life on social reforms, brewer and abolitionist Sir Thomas Buxton did not attain them all. But he became an expert on determination.

“Practice makes perfect.” So goes the saying that many of us learned as children. Want to hit home runs? PRACTICE!

You may already be convinced that persistence leads to success in athletics or business (the physical realm) and academics (the mental realm). Have you considered applying it to the spiritual realm?

Exercising Your Faith

Ever wondered why most religions recommend or require daily prayer? The best answer I have heard to this question is if we attempt to connect with G-d often, we stand a better chance of doing so sometimes. When I started becoming more committed to my faith, I was challenged to pray three times a day. At first, the effort seemed wasted. But over time, as my “prayer muscle” grew, so did my spiritual resiliency.

Perhaps the most important metaphysical skill we can work on is faith. Given how important conviction is to our success, you would think we would have long since adopted a daily regimen to cultivate it. Yet it seems most people have the attitude that when they need it their faith will be present. Can you imagine Kobe Bryant saying to his coach, “I don’t have to practice my free throw shot, it’ll be there when I need it.” Ridiculous, no?

We must exercise our faith if we want it to be available on demand. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Decide in whom you wish to develop faith: perhaps G-d, yourself, your spouse, or your children.
  2. Determine what aspect of faith you want to grow: G-d gives you everything you need, your ability to effectively direct your life. The choices are virtually limitless.
  3. Choose an exercise that challenges the area of faith in which you are working: Daily prayer to G-d for insight, strength, or another quality; working toward a goal that has many steps to attain it.
  4. Work out what you will do when your scheme goes awry: You did not realize something about a situation at the beginning that with better insight would have helped you avoid a problem. What will you tell yourself about G-d answering your prayers? Could He have said no, for now, necessitating harder work on your part?

Martha Graham, arguably the Picasso or Frank Lloyd Wright of dance, said, "Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired."

Question: Do you think deeper faith can be developed through practice?

Choose Life, But What Kind? – Netzavim 5772

This Shabbos we read Parshas Netzavim. In it Moses reminds the Children of Israel about the covenant with G-d, to shun idolatry, that they will transgress but then repent and G-d will redeem them, that the Torah will always be near to them, and the famous charge that between life and death they should choose life.

In Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:19, Moses says, “I call to witness against you today the heavens and the earth, the life and the death I have placed before you, the blessing and the curse; and you will choose life in order that you will live, you and your offspring.

Nu (Yiddish for well), who would choose death? While someone in the depth of depression might, in reality the passage is not proposing a choice between physical life and death

A related question: why are the heavens and earth serving as witnesses? Rashi explains. In his commentary to the passage he says: “the Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Israel, “Take a look at the heavens that I created to serve you. Might they have deviated from their character? . . Take a look at the earth that I created to serve you. Might it have deviated from its character?” The sun always does that which G-d created it to do: rises in the east and sets in the west. The earth yields plants according to the seeds that are sown. Steadfast though they are, they receive no reward and if they were to sin they would not receive punishment. How much more fortunate are we that Our Heavenly Parent blesses us for righteous behavior and uses His guiding hand to redirect us when we stray from the correct path.

So when Moses adjures us to choose life, he is urging us to opt to follow in G-d’s way, to do His mitzvahs so that we will lead purposeful and productive lives. In this final week before Rosh Hashanah let us ponder the choice we are making for the coming year, remembering that we will pray that G-d inscribes us for another year in the Book of Life. Physical life, to be sure, but more importantly a life dedicated to Torah and virtuous deeds.

Do you recall a time when you chose life? What were your options and how did you feel after choosing?

 

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